‘Big possibility’ for guard NaJee Toran to start UCLA season opener

For the second year in a row, a true freshman start a season opener on UCLA’s offensive line.

After enrolling in spring, four-star recruit NaJee Toran is on track to start at right guard. In 2013, it was Alex Redmond who began the season there — though injuries eventually pushed two other first-year players into the starting five. Redmond is slated to start at left guard as a sophomore.

Toran has taken the bulk of first-team reps on the opposite side over the last week, and based on his conversations with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, he expects to be in the starting lineup when the Bruins face Virginia on Aug. 30.

“A big possibility,” Toran said. “Just keep playing like I am, that’s where I’ll be at, most likely.” Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Quarterback Brett Hundley comments on O’Bannon ruling

» UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley talked about the offense’s progress so far into training camp. Active in the National College Players Association, the junior also commented on the recent ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA — one that could dramatically change college athletics (2:30 mark in the video above).

Although the NCAA intends to appeal, judge Claudia Wilken ruled that student-athletes could be paid up to $5,000 per year.

“It’s nice to have the athletes coming after me to be able to live a little more comfortably than we all did,” Hundley said.

» Crossing the halfway point of training camp in San Bernardino, tensions between the Bruins rose a bit on Monday morning. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Offensive line

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Offensive line

UCLA is facing life without left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, set to become the school’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Kris Farris went to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a third-round pick in 1999. And yet, the Bruins aren’t in bad shape without the man they voted their offensive MVP, one who earned the conference’s Morris Trophy as well as All-American nods.

No returning lineman is as versatile or mobile as Su’a-Filo, and not having a dynamic pulling guard will likely impact the Bruins’ running game. What should balance out his absence is a unit that is deeper and more experienced that it was a year ago — a continuing reclamation project sparked by 2013′s stud signing class. Continue reading

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Spring notes: Early enrollee NaJee Toran playing with a mean streak on offense line

Two weeks through spring camp, NaJee Toran has been a pleasant surprise on UCLA’s offensive line.

A three-star recruit out of the Houston area, Toran has found a spot as a backup right guard, mixing in some first-team reps along the way. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound lineman doesn’t overwhelm most opponents in size, but makes up for that with a relentless motor.

He’s been that way ever since he started playing football.

“I think it was my seventh grade year, I just exploded through somebody,” Toran said. “They just fell back. Since then, I’ve just been doing the same thing.”

The habit may have actually started on the basketball court. Though Toran usually had a physical edge over players his age, he felt like he had something to prove when matched up against older, bigger opponents.

“The feeling of overpowering somebody … of making somebody look weak — it puts a feeling inside me that I like,” he said.

– Receivers had a great showing in one-on-one drills on Saturday, with several players creating tons of separation off of just one cut. Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Mossi Johnson were among the standouts, but almost nobody fared poorly. Linebacker Myles Jack probably performed better than most of the defensive backs during one-on-ones. Continue reading

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